Monster (2003)

Rated 18
Amazon Prime
Spoiler Free

When Patty Jenkins' Monster was released in 2003 I was very excited about the much lauded serial killer drama, but recall being very disappointed. Why I couldn’t remember, such is time, but it was enough that it took me over twenty years to return to the film.

Monster is the most recent (re)genesis of the “conventionally attractive A list star uglies up a bit, to much acclaim” phenomenon. Charlize Theron, no stranger to domestic violence herself as in an unfathomably awful experience at just fifteen her mother killed her abusive, alcoholic father, plays serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Theron won best actress for her efforts, and she is exceptional, though the ugly approach was tactlessly replicated in places.

Wuornos was no oil painting, she was also not a pleasant woman to be around, possessing few airs and graces; but then, why would she? This was a very damaged woman, hurt brutally by men, who struck back and rallied in the wrong way against her horror via the sex work she undertook.

That might be the first time I've written a criticism of a serial killer and worried I might get comeback for not fully defending them, and it’s a good indicator of how tricky the Aileen Wuornos story is.

Monster begins as a very touching romance. Something I had completely forgotten or simply not engaged with twenty years ago. An angry Aileen, down to her last five dollars and at the edge of suicide, meets Selby, played by Wednesday Addams Christina Ricci. Selby is the polar opposite to Aileen and while subservient and also troubled, exactly the person Aileen needs. I was caught up in and moved by the opening act and knowing where it all goes, hoped it would just end at its happiest.

Looking down the barrel of impending murder and life’s heartbreaking, cruel truths being fisted into my eyeballs, I wondered why at that time of night I didn’t just watch a comedy. Then I remembered who I am. Comedies for when you are happy, horrible depressing shit is for when you want your world view confirmed*. Simple.

While not entirely likable, Monster does give Wuornos a pathos and gritty edge, while also playing the fiddle of truth pretty loosely. However, forced over the edge by a brutal John, Aileen’s dim life view and desperation take a nose dive into deadly and she goes a bit too far with it all if you ask me. A monster is made in a powerful, powerful film.

Bedsit it?

I don’t know what I was looking for before, way back when, but now I see what I should have. Upsettingly ensconcing on every human level. And there’s your key word, human. 8/10

*90% of my waking hours.

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